Antonio Vivaldi's Four Seasons - Arranged and Performed on Piano Live by Justin Bird
Apart from some incomplete arrangements of select movements, and many recorded versions, there are two complete piano versions printed prior to this one. A recent one by Roberto Novegno, and an older one by Guido Farina published by Ricordi in 1956. Pierre Gouin’s organ arrangement also deserves acknowledgement for being a wonderful arrangement accurately representing Vivaldi’s work. Farina’s version is also a worthy attempt, but rewrites passages too often, often under-representing or over-shooting the pianists ability. Other solutions to logistical problems result in distasteful octave displacements and un-pianistic writing. This arrangement does not take such liberties nor make such detrimental sacrifices.
The Four Seasons have a lot of opportunity for failure as an arrangement. The autograph does not exist, and the two copies that do have some differences. The current full scores disagree on what one should play, and even my survey of around 50 of the major recordings are still divided, with up to five different versions for one passage. Most solutions have been settled with a majority ruling from the vast discography for this work, and often are not what our modern ears are used to tonally. This may be reason why there is such disparity in the first place. Overlapping string parts, with second violins sometimes higher than firsts, ornaments, stringed instrument articulation, are all traps other arrangers fall in, but in the present arrangement, much has been done to achieve the important balance between representing the original version, and still being a convincing and playable solo piano work.
Prior arrangements are sometimes tempted with filling out empty textures, but this version holds dearly the sparse and stark fragility of the soloist’s texture, enabling the full contrast of the concertare. Some markings are intended more for strings or winds rather than piano, and have been adapted accordingly. Some examples are portarto – a slur with staccato notes – repeated notes without changing the bow direction resulting in a gentle, lightly detached, semi-legato. Long sustained notes played by strings are replayed on the piano because of their decay. Fast repeated notes are easy for a stringed instrument, and playing alternative octaves in a tremolo style on the piano is the best way to imitate the sound.
In the original edition published in 1725, Vivaldi’s score follows four sonnetto dimostrativo, illustrative poems written possibly by Vivaldi himself. As well as accurate letter references to these sonnets, there are also additional captions Vivaldi provided in the scores, the sonnets which you will find in each listed track info. The cycle is concerned with humankind’s relationship with nature. United in celebration is the nature-centered idealism in Spring and Autumn, and danger dominates the people-centered Summer and Winter.
Recorded at the Red Skelton Performing Arts Center, Vincennes IN
Mixed and Mastered by Justin Bird
Cover Art from eleanorwhytoniot.tumblr.com
Sonnet Translations by Paul Everett.
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